I have a love/hate relationship with exercise. But mostly I hate it. I don’t wake up in the morning in anticipation of my workout thinking, “Yes! I get to go to the gym today!” Usually, I am thinking, “I can’t wait until I am finally home from the gym today.” I have always told myself I love how exercise makes me feel; I just hate doing it. But right now, as I nurse some very sore muscles, I am not really thinking I love how it makes me feel. It makes me achy and tired - and it has always made me feel achy and tired. So why do I continue to punish myself this way? I am contemplating that on this beautiful morning.
Largely, I conclude, it is for my health. Physically, when I exercise consistently my resistance to colds seems to increase. I don’t get sick nearly as often when I am continuously working out as I do when I lose my motivation and spend too much time sitting around. I also eat less when I exercise, and I have read in the Bible many times the passages which warn me against gluttony, which can be a struggle. Sometimes I find myself eating just to be eating - especially if it is food I really love - and I realize I could readily fulfill the definition of a glutton (an excessively greedy eater), which I don’t want to be. Exercise teaches me self-discipline and helps me control my appetite through restraint. It also wears me out so I am too tired to overeat. Let’s face it, I get up at 5:30 AM, go to work until 3:00, sometimes tutor kids, go to the gym, and then get home, hopefully before 8:00 PM. I am whipped when I finally come through that door - and eating takes too much effort at that point.
But exercise also helps me mentally. I sleep far better at night when I exercise during the day than I ever do when I skip exercising. It is also a fantastic stress-reliever. One time, when I was working on my Bachelor’s degree I had so much homework I did not have time to exercise for a week (actually, I did not MAKE time to exercise). I was coming down to the end of the thesis I was writing and I found myself facing a complete mental roadblock for how to get through the final section and wrap it all up. I took a break and went back to it. I got some caffeine and went back to it. I ate a snack and went back to it. But, it didn't matter what I tried, nothing worked = my brain just would not cooperate. Finally, even though I "didn't have time", I decided to throw in the towel for awhile and go for a run. I ran two miles, wishing I had more time. I was AMAZED when I returned home and sat down with my laptop once again. My thoughts flowed and I breezed through the rest of the homework.
I have used exercise as a stress-reliever ever since, and believe me, I have endured some very stressful times in my life. I get concerned for our nation. We are a society that loves our pills and medications. I have worked with teenagers in high school for many years and they take a variety of prescriptions designed to help them deal with stress and tension. As adults, we are setting the example for our kids and for future generations. I get that life can be stressful and frustrating and that we often have to face things that hurt deeply. And I will admit, it would be a lot easier to deal with stress simply by taking pills or eating away my pain. But I find the closer I get to God, the less I want to solve my problems the easy way, because I don't think He created me for that. I think He gave people the ability to exercise for our own good. I am not saying there is never a time for medication, but I am saying I think as a society it has become a first choice for dealing with many of life’s stresses - before we try exercising or addressing our lifestyle habits. And I think we all know this. We are a very educated, but just not a very self-disciplined group of people.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 compares our lives to athletes in a race: “You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.”
I urge you to find a form of exercise and commit to it - starting TODAY! You can do it! I know you can!